By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: July 1, 2015
Want this new family in Squamish to get excited? Just talk to them about mountain biking.
When Aitor Ijurko, Asun Ayesa and their children, 13-year-old Ainhoa and nine-year-old Aimar, migrated to Squamish from Spain, they sold all their worldly possessions—except for their bikes.
Those bikes—and there are eight of them—were dissembled, put into boxes and brought to Squamish, where they can be seen happily ripping the trails almost every day. Mountain biking, in fact, is the reason the family chose Squamish when they moved to Canada this year.
“I love mountain biking and my life revolves around it,” says Aitor Ijurko, who has also created a website, ijurkoracing.com, detailing his family’s adventure with mountain biking. “I love riding, I love to assemble and set up bikes and I love talking about bike stuff, races, riders,” Aitor writes as he introduces himself in his blog.
Aitor was a fire fighter and Asun worked in a marketing company in Pampolana, Spain, before they decided to move to Canada to give their kids a better education and to pursue their passion for mountain biking. While Aitor and the kids love mountain biking, Asun likes to keep to a city bike, which she takes to Vancouver every day to ride in the city.
While mountain biking is gaining in popularity in Spain, it’s far less popular then soccer. Aitor, however, loved mountain biking and has instilled that love in his children. The family occasionally went to Madrid to take part in mountain biking competitions and has also competed in the Cranworx competition in France. Aitor says mountain biking isn’t mainstream in Spain as it’s in Canada and often their 13-year-old daughter would be the only girl in Spanish mountain biking races. At a major bike race in Madrid, there were only 15 women out of 572 racers.
But Ainhoa has plenty of good company here in Squamish. A student in Grade 8 at Don Ross Secondary School, she has joined the mountain biking club in her school and loved to go for group rides in Brackendale.
Ainhoa loves her new school in Canada and finds it at several removes from her private school in Spain which emphasized rote learning over individual interpretation. She finds the students friendly and is pleasantly surprised at how approachable her teachers are. And she loves the fact that there is no homework.
It’s all music to her parents and a vindication of their decision to move to Canada, where they know it will be a few years before they can find their bearings and their place in the country. Both had nice jobs in Pampalona. They owned a condo and were living a comfortable life. But Aitor always wanted to come to Canada. What got him to make the final move, however, was the financial crisis in Spain. And even though there were greener pastures in Europe such as Germany, Aitor liked the idea of living in Canada.
“People are so friendly here. I had always loved the culture, the lifestyle, the nature and the way people lived here. And I love Squamish and would love to keep living here,” Aitor says.
It hasn’t been all smooth-sailing so far, however. Having left stable jobs, family and friends behind, both Aitor and Asun are looking for more stable work than they have been able to find. They are far from losing hope and are driven to succeed in Squamish, the mountain biking paradise they sacrificed so much to make their home.